Southern HosPIEtality: Sweet Potato-Praline Pie

Guest Contributor

by Guest Contributor on November 7, 2013

Written by Andrea Lynn.
Back in mid-October, when the leaves were just tinting yellow and the weather was creeping toward colder breezes, the act of buying a can of pumpkin puree piqued unusual interest from the cashier: “Oh, are you making a pie with that?” she asked excitedly. I had to shake myself from the daze. You see, canned pumpkin is a weekly purchase as a mix-in for my dog’s food, so quotidian for me that I often forget its fall holiday connotation for the rest of the population.

In a stance referred to by others as un-American, I hate pumpkin pie. I’ll take the flaky, buttery crust scraps away from the pumpkin and eat them with the drop of whipped cream. Whether it’s the taste or the quaking consistency, I have nothing but loathing for pumpkin pie. I go out of my way to suggest a number of other pie options for the holidays: coconut cream, cranberry meringue, or pecan. Look at the variety, I say! Why is the rest of the country stuck in a pumpkin rut?

sweet potato praline pie, via goodfoodstories.com
But more than a decade ago, when I was a reporter at a suburban Atlanta newspaper, a profile assigment on a chef and her favorite dessert introduced me to the perfect fall pie: a cross between the old-school Southern staples of sweet potato and pecan praline pies. Making it for that year’s round of winter holidays, it was deemed the ultimate pie option—jazzy enough for a special dinner and less custardy than pumpkin, with the twist of crunchy, sugar-drenched pecans on top.

The following year, I moved to New York City to attend culinary school on the weekends and work as a live-in nanny during the week. I didn’t return South for Thanksgiving, instead absorbing the traditions of the family I lived with. I forgot all about the perfect pie recipe. I lost the recipe and, in a less-digital age, couldn’t find it. The sweet potato-meets-pecan pie memory haunted me. I looked through my old newspaper clips, scoured old email accounts, and typed in any and every Google combination possible that could possibly trigger it. And then, I gave up. It was gone, whooshed into recipes past.

sweet potato praline pie, via goodfoodstories.com
Until I stopped hunting for the recipe and realized I could spend that time recreating the vision—piecing together my memory of the pie while also relying on my recipe developer expertise. Can you guess what will be gracing my holiday table this year for a first time in a decade? It’s not pumpkin. . . .

AndreaHeadshotAndrea Lynn is a Queens-based cookbook author and recipe developer with Southern roots and a boiled peanut addition. Her dog would devour an entire pumpkin pie if left to her own means.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Wino November 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Oh YUM!!!

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Joe November 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

yummy! so as someone who doesn’t cook that much (but can make pies) and wants to try this, how do you toast pecans? is it like toasting pine nuts, where you just toss them in a skillet briefly over heat?

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Casey Barber Casey Barber November 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Joe, you can just toss them in a skillet over low or medium-low heat, and take them off the heat when you smell their wonderful nutty aroma. They’ll continue to cook for a bit from the residual heat once you take them off the stove, so this stops them from burning.

Alternatively, you can toast them in the oven on a baking sheet while you’re preheating for the pie crust, again removing them as soon as you start to smell them.

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Joe November 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Awesome, thanks for the info Casey!

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